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Ukraine's prime minister cancels visit to Moscow

    25 January 2021 Monday

    KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko has canceled her planned visit to Moscow this week to protest the refusal of Russian prosecutors to drop a criminal case against her, her Cabinet colleagues said on Wednesday.

    Tymoshenko had been expected to begin a two-day visit to Moscow on Friday.

    Ukraine's Economic Minister Serhiy Teriokhin said that the prime minister did not fear arrest but was canceling the trip as a matter of principle, the Interfax news agency reported.

    "No one is afraid of anyone. But there is the principle of international law," Teriokhin was quoted as saying.

    Tymoshenko's office refused to comment, saying a statement would be made later. Tymoshenko had been expected to give a news conference, but First Deputy Prime Minister Anatoliy Kinakh turned up in her place.

    "There is information that the visit has been postponed," Kinakh told journalists. Asked if the delay was connected to the still open criminal case against Tymoshenko, Kinakh said he didn't have details but noted: "Ukraine has every capability to defend its dignity and authority, and also the dignity and authority of Prime Minister Tymoshenko."

    Tymoshenko is accused of bribing Russian defense officials while she headed Ukraine's main gas distributor, and Russian prosecutors have issued an international arrest warrant for her.

    Russia's Prosecutor General Vladimir Ustinov said Tuesday that the case has not been closed and Tymoshenko remains on the wanted list, although he reiterated that she would not face arrest because of immunity provided to state leaders.

    Earlier Wednesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in remarks broadcast on Russian state television that the Kremlin was "eagerly waiting for her (Tymoshenko)" and that there were "no obstacles to her visit."

    Tymoshenko denies the Russian charges, saying they are politically motivated.

    Her appointment as prime minister reflected her pivotal role in a wave of opposition protests, dubbed the "Orange Revolution," that paved the way to opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko's victory over a Russia-backed rival in last year's tumultuous presidential race.

    Despite two meetings at a presidential level, Russia has struggled to re-establish normal relations with the new government in Ukraine, which has set a course toward integration with Western Europe. Kiev nonetheless remains heavily dependent on Russia for its energy supplies.

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